Coca-Cola South Africa batsman David Bedingham and England fast bowler Oli Stone produced champion performances for their respective sides at Boland Park on Tuesday to set up an intriguing final day of the Under-19 Youth Test Series.
England finished the day on 31/0 in pursuit of a victory target of 318 and this is a match that is capable of producing all possible results. South Africa needs to win to square the series while a draw or victory will give England a notable away series success.
For a long time it looked as though Stone might take all 10 wickets in the innings as he was the only bowler to threaten the home batsmen consistently and at one stage had incredible figures of 6/17 in 17 overs against a total in excess of 200!
The key partnership for South Africa was between Shaylin Pillay and Bedingham who both made runs for the first time in the series. They came together at 25/4 and shared a 94-run stand that took a lot of the sting out of the England attack in hot conditions.
Bedingham went on to share further half-century partnerships with Clyde Fortuin and Vassilli Orros and by the time he was dismissed for 131 he had set up a South African total in excess of 300 that left England with a very testing target.
Stone continued to be the big difference between the two sides on the third morning. He dismissed South African captain Diego Rosier with his second ball to leave the home team perilously placed at 19/3.
In a clever tactical move the home side then sent in Vincent Moore, normally an effective night watchman, at No. 5 to see out Stone’s opening burst. He survived for almost all of the fast bowler’s five-over spell before departing at 25/4. Stone finished his second spell with overall figures of 10-6-6-4!
His withdrawal from the attack provided some respite and at last two top-order batsman, Shaylin Pillay and David Bedingham, were able to build a partnership. They took their fifth-wicket stand to 59 runs by lunch with the total on 84/4.
England introduced the leg-spin of Jonathan Tattersall after lunch and the pair immediately stepped up the scoring rate with Pillay reaching his half-century off 145 balls (3 fours) and the total also reaching three figures.
With a wicket desperately needed, Stone came back for his third spell of the day and immediately broke through, dismissing Pillay for 63 (173 balls, 4 fours) with his 10th delivery.
It broke a threatening partnership of 94 runs with the overall lead 116.
Undeterred by this setback, Bedingham went on to reach his own half-century off 110 balls with 6 fours.
Together with new partner Clyde Fortuin, he raised the 50 partnership for the sixth wicket off only 81 balls – well ahead of the average rate for the match – with 7 fours and a six. The players were doing their utmost to exploit the old and soft ball before the new ball became available.
Not surprisingly, Stone took the new ball immediately with South Africa on 201/5 and Bedingham four runs short of his century. He dismissed Fortuin with his fourth ball to give him the remarkable figures of 6/17 in 17.4 overs.
Bedingham reached his century (127 minues,, 175 balls, 12 fours and a six) in the finest possible manner by driving Stone through the covers for four. It was only the third boundary the England captain had conceded in 19 overs.
At tea South Africa had scored 212/6, having added 128 in the session off 33 overs.
The third successive 50 partnership of the innings followed as South Africa took their lead past the 250 mark. Bedingham fell soon afterwards for a superb 131 off 204 balls with 16 fours and a six.
Vassilli Orros added a run-a-ball 50 to take South Africa past 300 and added another 50 partnership with Jan Frylinck before the latter was dismissed, prompting the declaration at 320/8.
That left England to make 318 for victory in the 11 overs remaining in the day plus the full 96 overs on Wednesday. Stone finished with the outstanding figures of 6/48 in 23 overs.
There were one or two tight moments before the close, notably against the pace and bounce of Kagiso Rabada, but England will be well pleased to have finished the day on 31 without loss.